Chapter Six

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The car ride was awkward. For a few pathetic seconds I had actually thought that conversation would flow naturally between us. I don't know why, maybe because she made it easy for me to forget myself. I'd find myself lowering my guard around her, and I'd feel like my old self... like me.

That was dangerous. And stupid. Unbelievably stupid.

I stared out the window, watching as building after building passed by. I had been resisting the urge to look at her—the very thought of looking at her, her profile, gave me a rush of anxiety that made me want to barrel roll straight out the window. Everything in me screamed, Abort mission!

I had been hoping she'd say something, to cut the awkward silence. Say something, Sterling! Anything.

Tell me I'm a horrible person. Tell me you're disgusted that I had a child with Salvatore. Tell me you want nothing to do with me. Tell me that, after you get your answers, you will go back to your life and forget me. Tell me that I'm—

"Quiet."

Her voice pierced through my mind, cutting my internal ramblings short.

"What?" I said, finally turning to look at her. I gave in and traced her profile with my eyes, as I had done many times as a teenager. Someone needed to photograph this woman.

She was staring straight ahead, intently focused on the road in front of her. Her hands held tight to the steering wheel, her manicured fingers gripping the leather.

"The last time you were this quiet," she said, turning to look at me for a brief moment, "was a long time ago, in my old car."

"Blue mustang."

I saw a ghost of a smile on her lips. "Yes. You were staring out the window, sulking."

I tried to remember which particular time she was referring to. I sulked a lot back then. Teenage angst, you know how it is.

"Sulking?"

"You had just... kissed me," Alex said, slowly, as if she were still in the process of remembering it. She said it so casually though, as if it were nothing. It wasn't nothing. The memory nearly killed me right then and there, like an arrow piercing straight through my heart. How many times had I pushed it away? How many times had I buried it? How many times had I tried to burn it so that its embers could light a fire that helped me survive my darkest days?

She continued, "You were trying to get rid of Angela, to keep her safe. You knew she would walk in on us."

I let out an awkward cough. "I remember," I muttered. I had been an extremely stupid teenager. "I also remember you telling me I could never let that happen again."

Alex laughed quietly. "That clearly worked out well."

I fought the smile that threatened to form and instead turned to stare idly out the window. "Hey, if I remember correctly," and I did, "you kissed me the very next night. You practically attacked me in your office."

She hummed. "True. I had been drinking, because of Brian." After another moment she shook her head in disbelief, "I can't believe you stopped me."

Just as I had always suspected, no one had ever turned Alex Sterling down before. The woman just didn't know rejection.

"I don't do drunk, engaged girls. Well, maybe engaged. But definitely not drunk." I turned to steal a glance at her, and she seemed to have had the same idea. Our eyes met, sending shards of ice through my chest. I opened my mouth to say something, but I didn't know what. Instead I said, "Keep your eyes on the road, Sterling." And she did.

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